The first week of spring seemed to demand at least a couple of images of baby wildlife. I started with a walk around the ponds in the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens. There were plenty of signs of spring around the ponds, including noisy skirmishes amongst the waterfowl and a colony of nesting Little Pied Cormorants.
The Mount Annan ponds typically have mown lawn on one flank with ‘natural’ wetland vegetation around the rest of the pond. The most productive part of any wetland is the edge, especially if there is a gentle slope or shallow bench for the aquatic plants to gain a foothold. Walking around the pond edges I spotted the nesting mound of a Purple Swamphen. The mound was woven from reeds and grasses and topped by a bowl shaped depression. The top of the nest was about 20 centimetres above the water. Swamphen nests are normally concealed amongst the reeds, but in this case the surrounding vegetation was sparse enough for a clear view.
Purple Swamphens continually flick their tails as they walk. The flick is very obvious due to the bright white underside of their tails. I was a bit surprised that this was flicking away as it sat on the nest, hardly the way the remain inconspicuous.
A small black head peeping over the adult’s tail, a newly hatched chick. It disappeared behind the adult, re- emerging a moment later as another adult approached with a dragonfly grasped in its beak. Not one but three chicks popped out from under the bird on the nest, all turning their heads to beg for food.
The adult chose one and returned to its foraging across the wetland. Two of the chicks ducked back under a wing, with the third leaning back on its parent to bask in the sun.
A moment later a different adult arrived and the chicks re-emerged and competed for food. I hadn’t realised that Purple Swamphens are cooperative breeders, however the next few moments showed that at least five adults were feeding the babies.
The swamphen chicks had tiny stubs of wings and huge pink feet. The reason for the early development of the feet became clear when one of the chicks decided to follow an adult with a combination of swimming, wading and scrambling over floating vegetation. The adult’s meanderings allowed the chick to keep pace, and after a few minutes it came back to the nest and disappeared under the sitting adult.
I returned to the pond several hours later. The nest was empty, although all of the adults could be seen nearby My first thought was that a predator had taken the chicks, but I soon spotted one being fed by an adult. I crept closer, which triggered the adult to loud clucking and a broken wing display. I retreated until it stopped. Over the next few moments it became clear that the three chicks were hiding in separate thickets of reeds. The five adults seemed to be visiting each of the chicks in turn. The gardens close before sunset so I don’t know if they stayed in their separate spots overnight or returned to the nest.
I’ve posted images of Long Billed Corellas before but couldn’t resist a small flock feeding on native figs. Although highly adapted to digging out roots and tubers the corellas seemed very keen on the figs. The figs are sticky and the corellas were using their dextrous feet to wipe off the juice off the long bills.
Back on the coast a large pod of Bottle Nosed Dolphins included a youngster swimming close to mum, or possibly aunty. Far from newborn, but another wonderful sight to start the spring.
The final image for this post is only about spring to the extent that the Variegated Wren was in its full breeding plumage. The problem is they are so gorgeous I simply can’t resist photographing them. They are a common species around Sydney bushland, preferring denser thickets than their even more abundant relative, the Superb Wren.